published Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Gun sale tape played for jury

One of two men on trial on charges of illegal firearms sales knowingly sold a handgun to a convicted felon, a recording in federal court showed Monday.

Carl and Richard Monroe, both of Athens, Tenn., are on trial on charges they sold weapons for profit without a federal firearms license. The brothers were indicted along with two other men last year.

Kevin Dawson, of Ooltewah, and his father-in-law, Jack Wardlaw, of Columbia, Tenn., already have pleaded guilty to weapons charges and await sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Terra Bay is trying to show the jury that the Monroe brothers had a "pattern" of selling weapons for profit without a license. It is legal to sell privately owned firearms without a license.

But investigators showed evidence that on several occasions the Monroes would get assault rifles, pistols and other weapons not in their collections for buyers.

In the audio recording played in court, a convicted felon, referred to as a confidential informant by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents, was in Carl Monroe's home to buy a .357-caliber revolver. The man says he got out of prison a few years back and has a hard time getting weapons.

"I don't need to hear none of that," Carl Monroe replies before selling the man the weapon for $450.

At the end of the investigation, which lasted from early 2011 until mid-2012, agents seized more than 180 firearms from Carl Monroe's home.

Marion County Sheriff's Deputy Chad Johnson, also an ATF task force officer, bought a MAC-11, which is a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol similar to an Uzi submachine gun, from Richard Monroe for $1,200. He also bought an AR-15, a semiautomatic assault rifle similar to the M16 rifle used by U.S. military, from Dawson.

Bay clarified Johnson's take on the brothers' gun sales during his testimony:

"When Carl Monroe or Richard Monroe did not have a firearm that you wanted, what would they indicate to you?" Bay asked.

"That they would go out and get one for me," Johnson replied.

Richard Monroe's attorney, Mike Little, struck at one point the prosecution has to prove when he cross-examined Johnson -- profit.

"You don't know if he was making a profit or not," Little asked.

"I don't know any other reason to be selling guns the way they were," Johnson replied.

"But you don't know, do you?" Little said.

"No, sir," Johnson replied.

Dawson, 40, was charged with trading an assault rifle to Jesse Mathews during a gun show before Mathews attempted to rob a Brainerd Road money store on April 2, 2011, and killed Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin in the process.

Dawson forfeited 323 firearms as part of his plea deal.

The trial resumes this morning in Chief U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier's courtroom.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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